Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Masquerade Party

I went to a masquerade party a few days ago. It was pretty cool. I made sure I had my mask in place before I joined the rest of the party goers, so I wouldn't stick out. It wouldn't do to go to a masquerade party and be without a mask - you'd stick out like the proverbial sore thumb!

As I found a seat and waited for the party to start, I looked around and admired the masks of my fellow party goers. I was impressed, and secretly wondered if my mask would measure up to the rest of the party goers. There were some really fancy masks, and I could tell a lot of thought had been put into some of them. I let my eyes drift from person to person. Mask to mask. Oh boy -  a person without a mask - well a kid actually. And another kid, and another. Why did all these kids come without masks?! Didn't anyone tell them they were to wear one? My eyes sought out the teenagers I knew were present. Good. They had their masks on. But why didn't the smaller kids? I didn't get it.

As I puzzled over that, the song leader stepped up to the pulpit and announced what page to turn to in the hymnal. Wait a minute. Song leader? Hymnal? I realized with shock that this wasn't a masquerade party at all! It was a worship service at my church! I started to remove my mask, feeling pretty embarrassed, but as I reached for it, I noticed that no one else was removing theirs. What a dilemma to be in. I knew I shouldn't be wearing a mask in church, but everyone else was. I sighed, then decided to leave it on so I wouldn't stick out. I still puzzled about the smaller children though - how could they be so smart as to not wear a mask in church, while the adults, who are supposed to be so much smarter and more intelligent, sat there with their masks on, oblivious to the fact that one does not wear masks in church.

Or do they? And what are under those masks?

Obviously if you have read this far, you know I am being satirical, or just weird. Maybe weird. But I am striving to make a point. All too often Christians do wear masks. No, not a plastic, rubber, or what else masks are made of - we wear emotional and spiritual masks.

That couple sitting in the pew across the aisle. They smile and look pious, but no one knows that their marriage is falling apart, slowly but surely. The young woman on the other side - she cries every night, wondering if she will ever find someone to love. The young husband sittig in front of her - his mind drifts to the images he had been viewing on his computer the night before, worrying if he remembered to clear his computer's history. The teenager on the back seat - as he sings with the congregation, he contemplates which way would be best to take his own life. No one cares. He's so tired of being bullied and beaten down. The middle aged woman toward the front - she has been having a lot of doubts lately. About God, her own salvation - yet she fears being "un-Christianized" if she voices her doubts, so she smiles and straightens her mask.

I was talking to my pal Steven last night, and mentioned a book I just reviewed by Warren Wiersbe, Be Authentic. It is a commentary on Genesis chapters 25-50, and I told him I was going to pass it on to my brother-in-law who is a pastor, as he may be able to use it. Steven asked me in jest, "why, don't you want to be authentic?" I laughed and made the statement that if I were authentic, no one would like me.

Is that why so many people in the church wear masks? Are they afraid that if they take the mask off and be authentic - and honest - that people would look down on them? Un-Christianize them? Maybe not even want to be around them?

I am afraid the church is all to guilty of two sins - and I am not excusing myself from at least the one - judging and gossiping. Could it be that we feel it necessary to wear our masks and cover up our problems because we fear being judged and talked about? Or because we fear we are beyond help?

Several years ago, Bill & Gloria Gaither wrote a great song. We sing it occasionally at church - The Family of God. I've been thinking of that song some in the last several months, and it may sound terrible to make such a statement, but I can't help it - I'm blunt and outspoken - if this is the family of God, I want some new siblings. Siblings who really care.

I made a statement on my blog several months ago, and someone from my church commented. I think highly of him, and am not knocking him for his comment at all - I'm sure the majority of people feel as he does. It was something to the effect that he would never ask someone at church how they are doing spiritually - or anything like that - for he wouldn't want someone asking him that.

When we sit in our padded pews (well, ours are padded) - singing the songs, listening to the message - I believe that many would be horrifed and shocked if they could see under the masks of their fellow church goers.

I've thought about taking my mask off. Of reaching up, ripping it off, and throwing it to the side - but I won't. I've let a few people see under it, and oh, they say they will pray for me, pat me on the back, but they move to the other side of the church. I've heard others at church make statements that ripped me apart - what they think of the person under my mask - not knowing that my mask is covering that. If they saw under my mask, they wouldn't pray for me. They would pull their righteous robes around them and adjust their own mask, and shove me out of their sight.

Now someone might say I'm bitter. I'm not. Disppointed? Yes. In the church, and its people. Yet, as I view my disappointment, I realize I'm no different or better than those who disappoint. I've been too critical, been guilty of not reaching out, of not praying for someone whose mask has slipped, or fallen compltely off. No, I just reached up to make sure my own mask was in place, and kept walking.

What is the answer? I'm not sure. I do know that some day, all masks will be torn off. Our weaknesses, sins, shortcomings and struggles will be laid out for all to see, unless they are under the blood.

I guess what matters most, is that we are authentic before God. That when we come before Him, we toss our mask to the side. For if He is all that His Word says He is, He won't turn aside in disgust, judge, nor will He go tell someone else. Instead, He will love and forgive. And just maybe, He will give us the courage to lay our mask aside and walk forth without it.

6 comments:

Kimmy said...

Wow. Great post.

Annette said...

Good post. Good point at the end...how we are before God is the most important, but we do know he wants us to be authentic here too.

Kim M. said...

One of the best posts you have ever written. What a good message that the church needs to hear!

Christy said...

Mark,
This was a good post and so well written.
I will have to say one thing though. I NO LONGER go to church with a mask on. I made up my mind that I do not care what people think anymore. I am going to be real. If someone does not like it than so be it. After I took off my mask, other people began to follow suite, at least to me. Since December God has TOTALLY changed my life, my desires, and my way of thinking. We are IN A WAR AGAINST SATAN, not our brothers and sisters in the church, not the pornography industry, or Hollywood. Sure those things can be used of Satan, but that is not where its at.
I think you should take your mask off...encourage others to do the same. It just might cause something too happen. I have seen more moves of God since I took mine off than I EVER thought possible.

Miriam said...

GREAT post!
"Nothing I can ever do, or fail to do can make God love me any more OR any less than He does right now."

God already sees our heart, knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts... why do we hide? Do we care more about what others think than what God does? I'm afriad so...

Thank you for this thought-provoking message...

Steve-n-Deb said...

I've been thinking about this for a while without commenting. I'm still not commenting, I'm questioning. What would a church look like if none of us wear our masks? How would we change the way we talk to others and about ourselves? Does no masks mean no secrets? Does it mean saying just what you think? Does it mean being who God created you to be and living as He redeemed you to live? I'm seriously asking.